Just like the proverbial buses, you wait ages for a new signing and then three come along at once. And, as with the previous two, this bus has come straight out of the Dorking Wanderers depot as we bid a warm welcome their captain, David Ray.
“Razor” is a vastly experienced defender who made over 300 appearances for Basingstoke Town, including three seasons playing in Conference South, and has also turned out for Bognor Regis Town, Farnborough Town and Carshalton Athletic. He has spent the last three seasons at Dorking and led them to the Isthmian League Premier Division title in 2019 and their subsequent promotion to the National League South where they reached the play-off semi-finals last month.
“He’s coming in as a player-coach,” confirmed boss Dom di Paola. “He’s going to be involved with the management team with a view of being in the squad as well. He’s really good, his pedigree and the career he’s had is great. He captained Dorking when they won it a year ago, he’s a really knowledgeable, experienced player that will help some of our players with their football. It’s another experienced lad to add to the group and I’m hoping he’ll bring some professionalism and that winning mentality that he’s got. As part of the management team, I think he’s going to be a good asset for us.”
The Hornets’ press and social media manager, Matt Jones, was there to welcome Razor to the club and asked him how his fitness was coming along, having missed that narrow semi-final defeat to Weymouth through injury.
“Yeah it’s been an odd one really because we played our last league fixture in March, and then a long period of unknown and uncertainty and not knowing whether the play-offs were going to go ahead or not. Then there was the clarification as to how they were going to end the season, in terms of points and who finished where; weighted or unweighted points per game, that kind of thing. Then back to training end of June, I was unfortunate to pick up an injury myself so it was an odd time, really, in that I was desperate to play in the games but found myself stuck on the sidelines after three or four months without kicking a ball. So, very frustrating but because of the long break between the last league fixture and the play-offs starting, it was just nice to get back and involved amongst the group and have something to focus on”.
MJ: You’ve been in the game a long time and spent many seasons playing in the Conference. How important is it to have experienced players in the side at this level of football?
“It’s very important but you need to get the balance right because age doesn’t necessarily make an experienced player. It’s important to get the right mix and it’s those evenings when maybe the opposition turn up and they’re at the top of their game, and you’re perhaps not quite at the top of yours, where I think experience really helps the younger players through. If you’ve got ambitions of promotion, winning leagues, getting into play-offs and having cup runs then if you’ve been through those experiences before, that’s when it’s going to stand you in good stead and hopefully you can have a calming influence on the younger players around you.”
MJ: You’ll be combining your playing role with that of first team coach. How much influence do you think you’ll have on the coaching set-up?
Yeah, so obviously being new to the club, I’m not going to be jumping in at the deep end and leading sessions. Dom and Jimmy will be taking care of that side of things and, having seen their plans for pre-season, they’re very well organised and they’ve got a good plan in place, which will stand us in good stead. The stage of my career that I’m at now, I’ve got a little bit of life left in the legs yet so I can do my bit on the pitch but equally I want to start looking at the other side of the game, for my future. What I hope I can bring is my experiences and things I’ve picked up when working under different managers to have a bit of an influence within the management team as well. I’m very much looking forward to it all.”
MJ: What can the supporters expect from David Ray the player?
“I’m very passionate, I love winning, and you’ll always get a hundred percent out of me. I’ve played most of my career at step two and had some good experiences so hopefully, out on the pitch, I can be a bit of a calming figure without losing any of that passion.”.
MJ: Your manager at Dorking, Marc White, said “if you have David Ray in your team, you’re going to win the league”. That’s quite an accolade!
“It’s just a great compliment, isn’t it? Marc’s a great guy. People often make remarks about the way Dorking work but people don’t know how Dorking work unless they’re on the inside. There’s blood, sweat and tears that go in to that club and Marc himself is a very experienced manager, he’s been doing it for many years, and has had a great deal of success. So to get a compliment like that, from someone who is so highly regarded within non-league, is nice to hear.”
MJ: You’ve won promotions, you’ve won league titles. What are your ambitions for this coming season?
“Play-offs minimum. I’m not coming here to get my feet under the table and start getting experience within the management team and just have a bit of a kick around on a Saturday afternoon. I’m coming here for another promotion. I don’t think we’ll know the effects of Coronavirus and how that’s going to affect playing budgets at clubs, the way clubs are run, player recruitment, etc for a while yet so, on that basis, the new season is going to be something of an unknown. But talking to Dom and the lads, there’s a great set-up here, you can see that.
“Horsham have a great following and we all hope that the fans will be allowed back in in full force as soon as possible because it really is the supporters that make a club. I think ambitions have to be high. We won’t put any unnecessary pressures on ourselves but, already looking at how the squad’s shaping up and the success that the club’s had over the last couple of years, we have to be positive and on the front foot. If you’re going to be involved with football, you have to want to win, so we want to have a real good push this year and see how we go.”